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Goldacre takes ABPI to task over book snub

UK News | October 12, 2012


Ben Adams

Dr Ben Goldacre has reacted angrily to a public snub of his book by the UK pharma lobby group the ABPI.

Goldacre’s new book, provocatively titled ‘Bad Pharma’, was published late last month, and has been the subject of much debate within pharma.

The book discusses both recent and systemic problems within the industry, with a particular focus on pharma firms withholding vital trial data – with the compliance of regulators – and the recent fraud charges surrounding GlaxoSmithKline, among other firms.

Last week the ABPI posted a public rejection of the criticisms levied at its members, with Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the ABPI, saying that it remains a highly regulated industry, and does its upmost to deliver innovative medicines to patients.

Whitehead added: “We must remember though that the examples he refers to are long documented and historical, and the companies concerned have long addressed these issues.”

Goldacre took particular exception to this, and posted his own reaction on his ‘Bad Science’ blog, where he said: “I am very sorry to say that the ABPI, the UK pharmaceutical industry PR group, has now responded [to ‘Bad Pharma’], and their only response has been to flatly deny what is plainly and provably true.”

Responding to the claims that these issues are ‘historical’ Goldacre says: “This is simply not true. The examples I refer to – [Roche’s influenza drug] Tamiflu, the failure of clinicaltrials.gov, and more – are contemporary, and very much on-going.”

He adds that it is: “Extraordinary and bizarre that anyone should claim that these problems are historical”.

He concludes: “The ABPI’s outright denial, of on-going problems that are so well documented, is worrying, because it hints at a wider malaise: that the pharmaceutical industry has learned there are no consequences for claiming black is white.

“As long as we live in a world where the ABPI can feel confident about claiming, quite falsely, in the face of all the published evidence, that these problems are in the past, then patients will continue to suffer unnecessary and avoidable harm. I truly wish this wasn’t so.”

Goldacre added that he would be posting more responses from the industry in the coming days, which he says are ‘more troubling’ than the comments from the ABPI.

Goldacre's full response can be found here: http://t.co/ugpg83C

And the ABPI's here: http://bit.ly/SSWQap

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